Gallery threat due to Museums Sheffield loan repayment demand

Graves Gallery and Central Library, Tudor Square, Sheffield.
Graves Gallery and Central Library, Tudor Square, Sheffield.
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MUSEUMS Sheffield has warned that the future of venues including Graves Art Gallery could be at risk due to council demands for a £650,000 loan to be repaid.

Senior officials at the trust which runs Graves, along with the Millennium Gallery and Weston Park Museum, have made the warning in confidential paperwork.

Sheffield Council, which is already reducing Museums Sheffield’s main grant by £200,000 to £1.8 million in 2013/14, wants the loan to be paid back in five instalments of £130,000 a year from 2014.

The loan was given to the trust in 2010 to help it cope with a cash shortfall.

Museums Sheffield’s Business Plan Summary 2013 to 2015, put together by chief executive Kim Streets and finance manager Helen Morris, said the trust ‘cannot begin to pay the loan until it is generating surplus from commercial and charitable activity’.

Currently such income - around £500,000 a year - helps to cover basic ‘open the doors’ costs - which will be hit if the loan has to be repaid.

The report said: “Closing sites and reducing opening hours is an option Museums Sheffield must face if it cannot afford basic costs.

“However, closing sites sends out a wider message about the economic state of the city, the way we value culture. Reducing hours has a major impact on visitor footfall, school bookings and retail income.”

The trust, which employs 74 people, is making a ‘small number’ of redundancies among its visitor services team but creating new retail jobs and inviting staff to apply to transfer.

Ms Streets said: “Closure of any of Sheffield’s museums and galleries is not a realistic option – it’s not in the best interests of the city nor us as an organisation, and that’s why we’re working hard to reduce costs and increase our trading income to support the service we provide.”

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for finance, said the authority has yet to hear from Museums Sheffield.